By Jutta Thoerner UCCE Master Gardener
I have more mounds in my garden than vegetables, Help! Doris, Paso Robles
Yes, spring is here along with many critters that like to share the bounty in our garden. Gophers, ground squirrels, moles and voles are the culprits when you have mounds or gaping holes in the ground, where flowers, seedlings or harvest-ready vegetables once stood.
Here are some options to bring balance back to your yard. Correctly identify the rodent first. Bait and traps are best when responding to an existing problem. Baiting is perceived as the easiest method, but we often share outdoor living areas with children or pets, making poisonous baits a less feasible option. Trapping requires that you check the traps every 24 hours for rodent visitors. Exclusion and attracting natural predators are good preventative measures or options once the pest population is low. Exclusion requires some forethought to include gopher baskets or hardware cloth before planting or filling raised garden beds.
Personally, I have been trapping and inviting natural predators for 25 years at my current home. Both take time and commitment, but you will see results. Choose the appropriate trap once you see evidence of critters. For voles, a simple mouse trap works best with fruit as bait. I prefer the cinch-trap for gofers. However, this is a personal choice according to your preference, so find one that works best for you. No need to be stingy with setting traps. For just one gopher, you can set up 6 traps if you see 6 active tunnels to increase your chance of catching it the first night. Invite predators such as owls and hawks by hanging nesting boxes, erecting perching stands and providing a water source.
To learn more about rodent control and natural predators, please join us at the UCCE Master Gardeners' Advice to Grow By workshop on Saturday, May 19th, in our demonstration garden at 2156 Sierra Way, San Luis Obispo, 10:00 am - 12:00. The spring plant sale will immediately follow from 12-2pm, featuring tomatoes, basil and drought tolerant Mediterranean landscape plants.